If the Answer is

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I was on an International flight recently. I haven’t flown in quite awhile, and I am not familiar with any new security regulations put in place in the last year or so. We were going on vacation, flying “across the pond” to Ireland and Scotland. We decided to upgrade to Business Class for our-seven hour flight there and nine-hour flight back to the States. It was quite a large Business Class section, with at least ten rows of seats, six across, grouped in twos. Surprisingly, there was only one lavatory at the front of the plane in Business Class, and one at the back near the galley just ahead of the coach cabin.

We were about half an hour out of Dublin when they began serving breakfast. About that time the cabin began to wake up, and after my breakfast I got up to use the lavatory. I went up front and waited until it was vacant. When one of the pilots came out of the lavatory, the flight attendant rushed up to me and told me I couldn’t use it, and that I had to immediately leave the area. The only explanation she gave was that the area in front had to be clear. I assumed that it was because we were landing, but she had seen me standing there, patiently waiting to use the lavatory for five minutes, but didn’t say anything. I had to then go to the back of Business Class section and wait again.

There was a line for the lavatory , and while I was talking to one of the other passengers, another flight attendant overheard what I was saying. He told me that because the pilot, who had exited the lavatory, had to open the cockpit door to return, the entire front area had to be cleared for security reasons. Once he was in the cockpit and the door was closed and secured, passengers can again be in the area. My thought was, why didn’t the first attendant tell me that? Instead of thinking that she was just rude, I would have understood the “why” of her actions and happily complied.

So often, we tell people what they need (or have) to do (or don’t do) but we neglect to tell them why. Without the “why,” we are just barking orders, making the other person feel like they are subservient, incapable of thinking or understanding. Instead of motivating the other person, we confuse, insult or make them resentful. In order to motivate or show respect, let people know the reasons behind a request. What benefit does complying have for the person? How will it benefit the rest of the group. What is the rationale behind the procedure? With increased airline security, it made sense to keep people away from the area around an open cockpit door.

The next time you have to give an order, make a request, assign a difficult task or offer some constructive feedback, don’t forget the “why.” Compliment the person making them a partner in the process. Help people to cooperate with enthusiasm instead of feeling like a subordinate or, a mere “hired hand.”


Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," "Pulse" and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at www.skirt.com/savannahchick, www.workingsmartworks.blogspot.com/ and on the web at www.mjnhconsulting.com.

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